Tag: Survival

How to Remove a Fishhook and Other Extraction Tips



Here’s some essential knowledge if you ever plan on fishing with me…via a tweet from Guy Kawasaki…Wired’s How-to Wiki explains how to remove a fishhook from a buddy.

But why stop there? Here are some other helpful extraction techniques you should know:

[Originally posted April 10, 2009]

Close to 100 Uses for Paracord – and Growing

nylon paracord

Paracord | Photo courtesy of More than Just Surviving

You’ve got one of those nifty paracord bracelets and you know that it must be good for something more than Macgyver-esque style. More than Just Surviving lines out 93 ways to use that paracord bracelet for more than drying laundry.

Here are just a few of the ways you can use paracord:

Belt or replacement belt,
Bolo tie,
Pet leash,
Knife handle wrap,
Support for a lean-to shelter.

Unravel the paracord and you’ve got high-strength inner threads that you can use for:

Fishing line,
Bowstring for a fire drill,
Dental floss,
Suture thread.

One thing you might not actually be able to use your paracord for? You guessed it – parachutes*.

* Check to be sure your paracord is certified 550 mil spec before using it to jump out of a plane.

[Via More than Just Surviving]

Make a Bow and Arrow the (Really) Old Fashioned Way

When society collapses you’ll be glad you have these skills. Primitive Technology shows how to make a lethally effective bow and arrows using just a few stone tools.

It doesn’t end there. The (as far as I can tell) nameless maker behind Primitive Technology serves up a baker’s dozen tutorials on how to do sophisticated things with a few paleolithic tools. Make a poisonous bean non-poisonous, weave baskets with plant fibers, make a mud hut with a central-heated floor.

The blog posts and videos are all clear, straightforward and completely understandable. I only have one question – with all the time this guy spends shirtless in the wild, how does he stay so white?

[Via Kottke]

How to Survive a Mountain Lion Attack: Take Your Wife


Jim Hamm is lucky that his wife, Nell, kept her head while a mountain lion had a deathlock on his. The 70 year old hiker was attacked by the lion while hiking in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. Nell tried stabbing the cat in the eye with a ballpoint pen but the pen broke. Then she tried beating the lion with a big stick. Finally she jammed the butt end of the stick up the lion’s nose and that convinced the animal to let go of her husband.

One thing the Hamms did that helped them survive was to talk ahead of time about the possibility of a lion attack. It’s something to think about if you’re considering hiking in the Santa Monica mountains. It wouldn’t hurt to read up on the standard advice–don’t try to run away, appear to be huge, make a lot of noise, fight back aggressively when approached.

But if you really want to know how to survive a cougar attack, consider this: the Holy Spirit is more than one billion times faster than a cougar.

(cf. Man rips leopard’s tongue out)

[Photo via publicdomainphotos.net]

Originally published February 1, 2007

Come Home Alive – There’s an App for That

Search and rescue team attends to injured caver

Christopher Van Tilburg talks on Outside Blog about a search and rescue operation that went far better than usual because the stranded hikers had a smartphone. Rescuers were able to get detailed coordinates and guide the hikers to a safe pickup location. Maybe smartphones should be basic equipment?

If you are an adventuresome smartphone user, by all means check out survival apps such as the one from Mammut, a free survival app geared to skiers and snowboarders. BuddyGuard is another offering, one that automatically phones home if you become incapacitated. However, with a price of $120 you’re edging into personal beacon territory.

One thing to consider is how often you will be traveling outside of cellular range. If you’re out of bars, your smartphone might seem a little stupid. WoodsMonkey has some tips on how to use a smartphone as a survival tool even when you’re out of range.

If you want the Search and Rescue to find you when you’re really out in the wild you’ll need something more like the Spot Personal Tracker. This device actually sends your coordinates to a satellite which then communicates to a server and sends an email to prearranged parties. These beacons require a subscription service and they are limited in their ability to send messages. But you can work out a prearranged deal with friends or family to start a search in your last marked location if you fail to check-in.

None of these devices replace good old fashioned common sense but they do promise to shave hours off your own personal 127 Hours ordeal.

How to Avoid Blood-Sucking Vermin (Ticks, Not Lawyers)

If you hike then sooner or later you will have to deal with ticks. These cunning relatives of the spider wait on the ends of leaves and grasses for an unsuspecting mammal to brush past and then climb aboard for a free lunch.

Alicia MacKleay provides a comprehensive guide to dealing with ticks on and off the trail, including ways to tick-proof your clothing.

There are also a number of natural tick repellents you might try, although the most promising, nootkatone, won’t be commercially available for a few years.

A careful tick-survey of your clothing and body is your best bet after each hike. Otherwise you could wind up bringing them into your house where they can sneak-attack your family and friends.

I’ve never had a tick on myself, but my dogs and my sister have. Folklore states that the best way to remove a tick is to encourage it to leave voluntarily, either smothering it with oil or burning it with a match. Both these methods, it turns out, are terrible. They don’t work and they can cause the critter to “barf” its stomach contents into your bloodstream. Ick.

We also were once instructed to remove a tick by twisting it in a counterclockwise direction. It worked like magic. Or was that clockwise?

Twisting might work but it also might leave the tick’s head embedded in the skin where it can fester. The recommended way to remove a tick is to grab it very close to the skin and pull straight back. See Bug Girl’s suggestions for the correct approach to removing a tick. It’s a good idea to carry tweezers or a tick remover every time you hit the trail.

Image By André Karwath aka Aka (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

You Will Be a Newbie Forever – Mastering Technology

I’ve reached a place in my life where I don’t want to learn one more stoopidly designed interface. Take the Shoretel phone system…please. (Although it’s a big improvement over Rolm phones).

Former Wired editor and technology guru Kevin Kelly explains that the technology we need most is not necessarily the technology that’s available today. Instead, we need to become expert at adapting to the speed and revolution of new technologies as they arise.

The life skill you need most is not the mastery of specific technologies, but mastery of the technium as a whole — how technology in general works. I like to think of this ability to deal with any type of new technology as techno-literacy. To be at ease with the flux of technology in modern-day life you’ll need to speak the language of the technium.

Kelly’s insight yields some surprising fruit. For instance, today’s technology is already obsolete, so don’t buy a gadget until you absolutely need it. Limit your options to avoid overload. Get by with the least amount of technology that works for you.

The Technium – Techno Life Skills

Beyond First Aid: The Ultimate Emergency Manual

Here’s an excellent, free downloadable first aid resource designed for ships at sea where there is no doctor present. As expected, it is mostly aimed toward the seafarer, but much of the advice could be used in any type of expedition.

Fishermen are particularly prone to infections of the hands
and fingers because of their working environment and the
things that they are required to handle during their work.
For instance, they may be injured by fish spines and bones, by
broken ends of warps and many other things. Minor cuts and
grazes often go unnoticed at the time of injury. Bacteria are
carried into these wounds from fish slime and guts and also
from pieces of metal etc. Infection then develops with
inflammation of the infected area and the formation of pus.
Prevention is always better than cure and it is
recommended that Chlorhexidine Gluconate 20%
(HIBISCRUB) is used to wash hands and forearms after
handling fish of any kind. The Hibiscrub can be used as a soap
or in solution.

The Ship Captain’s Medical Guide via Lifehacker

What’s in Your (Survival) Backpack?

Fire starting tool



Jaymi Heimbuch puts together an industrial-strength survival pack, the sort you might need to survive a Haiti-style disaster. There are plenty of good resource links here, plus lots of chatter in the comments. Heimbuch’s main complaint? This first aid, survival kit tips the scales at 30 lbs. (Hint, go with LED flashlights and lose the D cell batteries.)

If you want to travel lighter, or in be prepared in case you get separated from your backpack, search and rescue specialist Michael Neiger lists the essential survival tools you should carry in your pocket.

Photo by Ken Bruker

What a 3-Year-Old Can Teach You About Wilderness Survival

Woods at top of Horn Canyon

Woods at top of Horn Canyon

In the first week of May this year 3-year-old Joshua Childers decided to go on a hike. His adventure lasted three days and two nights through a heavy rain and in 40 degree temperature in Missouri’s Mark Twain forest, 53 hours in all. When he was found by search teams what he wanted most was a glass of milk. According to doctors there was no reason he should have survived.

It’s unclear exactly what helped Joshua survive exposure. Young Childers didn’t say much, perhaps he’s not a good interviewee, or perhaps he’s got a book and movie deal lined up. News reports, however, reveal a couple of keys to his survival:

There are a few take-aways from Childers’ adventure. For one thing, parents need to be aware of the “only a couple minutes” disaster window of opportunity. Childers’ mother had been on the phone for just a few minutes and that was all the time it took for the child to wander off. Next, if you are going camping or to a park near an open space with young children, spend some time “woodsproofing” them. Finally, if you’re heading into the woods it wouldn’t hurt to learn some basic survival skills.

Things a parent can do to help a child survive being lost in the woods:

  • Teach her to hug a tree – and talk to it. This helps the child calm down and stay in one place. Most children are found within a one mile radius of where they were last seen. Talking to the tree can help rescuers and rescue dogs locate the child.
  • Make a nest. A hole in the ground and a blanket of leaves can help a child survive a long cold night in the woods.
  • Leave a mess. Matted down grass, broken sticks, piles of rocks – these are the things rescuers look for. Normally you want to teach children to “tread lightly” in the wilderness, but when a person is lost the more clues the better.

Know Your Knot

Handy guide tucks in your wallet

Handy guide tucks in your wallet

As I’ve said before, I can’t remember how to tie a knot to save my life. Maybe that’s why I don’t get invited to necktie parties.

Here’s a great tip from Make Magazine’s blog: wallet-sized knot tying reference cards to help you remember whether the rabbit goes over the fence or down the hole.

Another great resource: Knots, Splices and Ropework at Project Gutenberg.

Previously at Wild Rye: Animated Knots by Grog.

Use Witch Hazel to Cure Posion Oak Rash

Poison Oak in the middle red phase

Poison Oak in the middle red phase

Witch hazel is something you may have seen in your mother’s medicine chest, but she probably didn’t tell you why she was using it. Consequently you may not have discovered the extract’s many magical properties.

Fact is, witch hazel is good for a lot of things, some that you can talk about in mixed company and some that are mainly of interest to “us guys.”

Witch hazel is very good for treating a urushiol rash. Urushiol is an oily compound found on poison oak and poison ivy that quickly binds to the proteins in the skin. A rash develops when your body interprets these urushiol-modified skin cells as foreign agents and tries to kill them off. This bonding happens quickly, 10 to 30 minutes after exposure. The rash can take two or three days to appear and might last up to two weeks, untreated.

My trail buddies tell me that a good scrub with Tecnu Extreme Medicated Poison Ivy Scrub will prevent poison oak as long as you do it immediately after exposure. My problem is that I don’t always know when I’ve been exposed – a person can get a rash from oil on clothing, on a hiking stick, backpack or a friendly four legged creature. I’ve never found topical treatments such as calamine or cortisone cream to be effective or helpful. Witch hazel, applied twice daily, is nothing short of miraculous. Instead of a 7 to 14 day spell of tragic itching my most recent poison oak rash cleared up in three days.

I’m guessing that the astringent properties of the witch hazel quickly dry up the blisters, which in turn reduces skin damage and relieves itching. Or it may be the placebo effect. Who cares? As long as it works.

If you’d like to volunteer for further field-testing and research, have a testimonial about the amazing properties of witch hazel, or if you have a poison oak experience that bears retelling, by all means feel free to leave a comment.

How to Survive a Cougar Encounter

TV Land's Cougar

TV Land's Cougar

Sooner or later it could happen to you. Might be in the backwoods of the Sespe. Might happen between the aisles at Trader Joe’s. Either way, it’s a good idea to brush up on your Cougar avoidance techniques.

A study from UC Davis examining 185 cougar attacks from 1890 on, seems to suggest that the conventional wisdom is all wet. Stand your ground and a mountain lion might just think you’re wounded prey. Run and the puma might think you’re fast food. Though as Rocky at the Goat points out, you don’t really have to outrun the cougar. Unless, of course, you’re hiking alone.

So where does this befuddling bit of news leave us? If running away is a really bad idea, but standing still is worse, I guess there’s nothing left except to make like a badger and get in the cougar’s face.